Communist Viruses

It has long been perfectly clear that neither Hong Kong nor Taiwan wishes to be ruled from Beijing, and few can be surprised by that. The people of those semi-independent polities enjoy strong traditions of respect for individual rights, the rule of law and market-based, broadly capitalist economic systems. They are also, not coincidentally, much better off economically than the great majority of their relatives in the PRC.

What’s more, as is the case with about 30% of the PRC’s population, most Hong Kongers speak a language (in their case, Cantonese) that is quite different from Mandarin-speaking Beijing.

(Entirely apart from issues specific to Hong Kong or Taiwan, I would guess that many non-Mandarin speakers within the PRC (certainly the Uighurs and Tibetans) feel more like conquered subjects of the Han than like empowered citizens of their own country. Even many Han, while almost certainly feeling great pride in their dominant position within the country, undoubtedly resent the strictures of the authoritarian system under which they live).

The PRC’s rulers are anxious to take full control of Hong Kong and to annex Taiwan because the individual liberties and economic successes of those distinct but still Sinic lands represent a significant threat to Communist Party rule in the mainland. As information flows ever-more freely (a process the PRC, like tyrannies everywhere, is working hard to stop), how long can it be before the PRC’s subjects ask themselves why they shouldn’t enjoy the same rights as Hong Kongers or Taiwanese?

Freedom is an elixir; tyranny, as embodied by the PRC’s (Orwellian) Social Credit System, deadening; the Communist Party really can’t let their subjects get a taste of the good stuff because doing so would threaten their own position.


The Wuhan Coronavirus may ultimately play the same role in destroying the apparent legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party as Chernobyl did with the authority of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union – and for strikingly similar reasons.  

Because of Chernobyl, it became common knowledge that secrecy and ass-covering were endemic to the way the country was governed and directly responsible for a disaster that had endangered tens of millions. (The recent HBO miniseries documentary Chernobyl brilliantly illustrates these points). No less an authority than Gorbachev considered Chernobyl the catalyst of the Soviet Union’s fall – it caused the regime to lose all of what little respect it had previously enjoyed among its subjects.

In Wuhan, it is now believed, the same regime characteristics resulted in the deadly virus spreading for months, perhaps to the point at which it cannot be constrained in China, or even globally, before its existence was admitted or anything done about it ( This terrible mistake – all too characteristic of tyrannical governments – may (God forbid) result in vast numbers of deaths and, as happened with Chernobyl, it may (particularly when combined with widespread knowledge of the Hong Kong riots) result in what the Chinese will later describe as the regime’s loss of the Mandate of Heaven.  

How such a regime collapse would play out, none can say – but the Chinese Communist Party has made it clear in innumerable ways, including the slaughter of its own people at Tiananmen, that it would not go quietly.


As previously mentioned, I have been working my way – slowly, painfully – through Judgment in Moscow by the late noted Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky. It’s too disturbing a book to read quickly; it copiously details documentary evidence photocopied from Soviet archives of the roles played by western progressives in supporting and prolonging Soviet tyranny. Bukovsky shows that the nuclear disarmament movement and many of those who advocated treating the Soviet Union as a normal (and morally-equivalent-to-the-West) country were a) supported financially by the Soviets and b) quite effective in helping the Communist regime last much longer than it otherwise would have. The evidence Bukovsky uncovered comes as a shocking and sad revelation of western complicity in communist tyranny.

I can’t help but wonder what Bukovsky would think of the sight of Bernie – a proud socialist and an unrepentant admirer of the Soviet Union (where he spent his honeymoon after the publication of The Gulag Archipelago, which documented the vast scale of the horrors of Soviet rule and long after Stalin’s status as one of history’s greatest mass-murderers – alongside Hitler and Mao, two other proud socialists – had become known) – as a serious contender for America’s presidency. Or what he would think of the American technology companies that sell China the means to implement its Social Credit System or help it censor the Internet. Actually, I have a pretty good idea what he would think of all those facts.

The Soviet system – as Solzhenitsyn, Bukovsky and many others made perfectly clear, was based always and everywhere on the use of fear to control the populace. The Chinese system is really no different. Well, maybe it’s more ruthless.

So it’s not hard to understand why Hong Kong and Taiwan are desperate to maintain whatever they can of their de facto independence. Or why we should think more seriously than just about anybody had before Trump was elected about how we deal with the Chinese government.  

M.H. Johnston  

5 comments to Communist Viruses

  • Yan  says:

    Many points in this post are disagreeable…
    For example, the notion of Hong Kong or Taiwanese are better off economically than their mainland relatives was true 20 or even 10 years ago, not necessarily at all these days. I think this is one of the factors that contribute to Hong Kong people resentment. Also huge false impression that vast majority of Chinese are blaming or losing confidence to Chinese government. The opposite is more true, whether unfortunately or not.

    • M Johnston  says:

      Not what I had read, but perhaps you are right. Time will tell.

    • M Johnston  says:

      As a matter of interest, I just googled the per person GDPs of Hong Kong, Taiwan and the PRC; their 2017 figures are $46,000, $50,000 and $8,000 respectively.

      • Yan  says:

        The per capital GDP number doesn’t mean a lot given the gigantic income gap between big city and rural area in China.

  • Rob  says:


    Thank you for the great post.

    Yan, the people of Hong Kong are not marching in the streets and taking beatings for higher wages, they are in the streets for freedom. Hong Kong’s resentment of the Chinese communist government? Laughable.

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